Several years ago my wife had her eyes checked after coming to the conclusion that things in life weren’t intended to be blurry. It was tough for her, getting glasses, because she was relatively young, and if we’re being honest, she wasn’t quite sure that she would find frames that would go with all of her outfits.
The doc said that her eyes had experienced drastic changes over a course of a few years given the number of kids she had given birth to. Who knew that having 5 kids by the time you were 30-years old would cause major hormonal changes in your body including the hormones involving your eyes?
Stacy, my wife, eventually found some frames that worked for what she was looking for, and when the day came for the new eyewear to be picked up from the optometrist, I was the one to pick them up for her.
I was at lunch with a good friend of mine when I got the call, “Honey. Can you run to the optometrist and pick up my glasses? That’s okay…you can do it after lunch. Thanks!” It wasn’t long before my buddy and I were on our way out the door to get the glasses.
Now here’s the thing. My buddy, Drew, wears glasses. Not just any glasses. We’re talking straight from the bottom of an old Coke-a-Cola soda glass kind of glasses. One minute with Drew’s glasses on for the common man and, boom, instant migraine.
On our way out to pick up the glasses, Drew began asking me questions about my eyesight. It didn’t take long for me to explain to him that I had perfect eyes, 20-20 vision, and had no need for glasses. It didn’t matter what I said to Drew, he was convinced that getting your eyes checked was something that everyone should do annually. As I pulled up to the optometrist’s office I saw a sign in the window that read, “FREE eye exam.” One look at that sign and I was in. I’d go along with Drew’s assertion that getting your eyes checked was both important and necessary, especially if it was free. Before I knew it my name was called and I was on my way to proving to the world that my eyes were flawless.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I was in some sort of modern torture chamber. In this chamber they had me sit with my head against a huge pair of binoculars. The lady administering the test told me to be prepared as I was about to experience some air in my eyes. Some air? Are you kidding me? What I was expecting is what my mom would do to me as a kid when I had an eyelash stuck in my eye. You know, the gentle blow. What I got was something very different. I got sucker punched by the Mike Tyson of air blowing right in the eyeball. What a treat that was!
After the basic tests I was quickly ushered into the doctor’s office and sat down in a chair that looked like they took it straight from the Starship Enterprise. I was obviously excited at all of the buttons and was looking forward to getting the most out of my free eye exam.
The doctor soon came in, put this bionic machine in front of my eyes, and started spinning the Price Is Right wheel in front of my eyes asking me to tell her when I could see clearly. Letters. Numbers. Shapes. It was a wild ride and I was sure I was going to win.
At the end of my eye exam the doctor began speaking Latin to me, or at least it seemed as though it was a foreign language, using terminology that I had never heard before. She explained to me that I had an astigmatism is my right eye that was in the shape of a football, but was supposed to be more basketball in shape. Though I was tracking with the sports analogies, it still wasn’t adding up.
For several minutes the optometrist wrote while asking me a battery of questions about what I do in the course of my day: activities, schedule, family, school, etc. In what seemed like an eternity, the doctor soon looked up from the paper that she had been so engulfed in and said to me, “You need glasses.” My response was classic, “What? Me? Glasses? You’ve got to be kidding me.” But she didn’t stop there. The eye doctor quickly followed up her statement with a question and statement, “Do you know what bifocals are?” she asked. “You mean like what my grandpa wears?” I suggested. “Yes!” she said. “The good news is that you don’t need bifocals.” Relieved, I perked up in my chair, but that sensation was short-lived as she immediately followed up her encouragement with another statement, “You need trifocals.”
It didn’t take long for my free eye exam to end up costing me over $300 in prescription glasses; tri-focal glasses, the kind people with really bad eyes, not people like me wear.
When I got the glasses and followed the doctor’s instructions, it didn’t take long for me to begin seeing things differently, clearly, and with a whole new perspective. I was amazed at how things looked – things that were so commonplace – things that I had looked at everyday of my life for better than 30 years, but was now seeing with clarity. It was amazing!
Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you had your spiritual eyes examined?
David, in his Psalm of prayer, writes: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24/NIV)
What David was doing was essentially asking God for a Spiritual check-up.
There are many reasons for a check-up like the one King David sought God on. Whether it is we are not being spiritually fed and we begin to experience a form of malnourishment, or we aren’t using our spiritual gifts to the point that they seemingly begin to atrophy, the point is that there are several things that can cause us to need spiritual attention in our lives, though we may not even be aware of our need for the treatment or care.
If you were to ask God to do a Spiritual examination of your life, what would the results of be?
I think so often people go through their lives, day by day, without giving their spiritual self a second thought. People may think: “I believe in God” or “I went through confirmation as a kid” or “If there was a problem, I’m sure it would be pretty obvious.” The problem is that, like my eyes, I had become so used to living with an astigmatism that my perspective changed to the point where I believed that I was fine all the while having some pretty significant flaws in my vision. I was seeing things the way that my eyes had adjusted to seeing them, but no sooner that I put my progressive trifocals did I start to see things in a whole new perspective. I finally was able to see things as they were meant to be seen, and not as I had grown accustomed to seeing.
Many things in this life can cause our perspectives about God, church, and even our faith identity, to become skewed. And though we may not even notice that there is a problem as we soon learn to adapt and adjust, if left untreated our spiritual lives will begin to diminish, never allowing us to experience God for the way He has designed for us to experience Him.
Much like wearing my glasses, there are things that each of us can do to help us adjust our perspectives and see God with a clearer perspective.
What I am suggesting is that each of us be intentional about having the Holy Spirit examine our lives, that we get involved in a faith community that will encourage spiritual growth, that we read our Bibles in an effort to experience God and better understand the things of God, that we pray, and that we begin to intentionally live out our faith in word and in deed.
Much like my experience at the optometrist, you may be surprised by what you find as well as how much of a difference changing how you live your life will help you see things in a whole new perspective.
Have you ever experienced failure? Of course you have. What I’m more interested in addressing is what you did with that failure.
All too often people surrender themselves to their failures, even to the point of paralysis. In fact, fear of failure is one of the biggest phobias people face. It’s called Atychiphobia, and literally means an abnormal, unwarranted, or persistent fear of failure, according to Wikipedia, which we all know is the world’s leading standard for Encyclopedias, right?
Imagine if Michael Jordan had given up on the basketball after being cut from his freshmen basketball team. What would the game of basketball look like today? Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had given up on his Presidential-run after numerous business failures fell apart, multiple failed Office elections, his wife dying, a nervous breakdown and more. Who would have been the 16th-President and where would our country be? Imagine if Thomas Edison believed his teachers when they told him that he was too stupid to learn anything. Where would our world of sound and light be today without his incredible inventions and amazing business prowess?
Each one of these individuals was faced with a choice – a choice to either be defined by their failures or to allow their failures to refine who they were. In each instance that I have mentioned here, these men chose to allow their failures to influence their lives in a way that refined them, giving them the confidence and drive to do something so profound that it would change the world…and it did.
Living in a day and age where performance matters more than any other time in history; having the best grades in order to get in to the best college so that you can get the best credentials in an effort to obtain the best job with the highest pay, all of which is drilled into us at an early age. So what happens when you set out to achieve all that you can achieve and fail? Do you let that circumstance define who you are or do you let it refine you?
Recently I’ve been thinking about the men and women that God used to influence their culture and to change the world; men and women who accomplished much and were/are highly recognized for the things that they did. Though when you stop for a minute and really examine these individuals you may be surprised at the failures that they, too, had to overcome – Moses with his speech impediment and the fact that he was a murder, or King David who was known as “a man after God’s own heart”, but also had to persevere through major mistakes including an adulterous affair, a wicked cover up, and eventually murder. Let’s not forget about Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and one of the original twelve-disciples. Peter was instrumental as the founding father of the church, yet was the same individual who denied Christ three different times; denied having any knowledge of this man who he once called his best friend and his Savior. Talk about failure. Wow!
I think what amazes me most is how God used these individuals in spite of their junk, their faults, their failures, and that God used them when He did – not waiting for them to have it “all figured out” or to have been perfect before God would use them, but that God took their brokenness, their messy, ugly, sticky situations and used them to change the world. Again, wow!
What I’ve come to realize is that each one of us faces junk in our lives. The Apostle, Paul, addresses this in his letter to the church in Rome when he says, 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom. 5:3-5) We all will deal with some type of folly or failure in our lifetime; that’s inevitable. What matters most is what we do with our failures.
What would your life look like if you allowed God to work in and through you in spite of your situations and circumstances? How much could God accomplish in your life and the life of others if you were willing to let God make use of you regardless of your past, your mistakes, your sin, and your struggles? Could God really turn your biggest failures into your greatest gains? I believe He can and that God can take your ashes and make beauty out of them even to the point of changing the world.
This idea has impacted in such a big way that I am actually going to be spending the next four weeks working through this at our church. I’ve committed myself to looking at how God can use each one of us to change the world. And I’m excited to be a part of what God is going to do both in and through this new series as the people right here in Prior Lake, Savage, and from across Scott County, adopt the will and work of God in their life despite their faults and failures.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
~ A. Anderson
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This is one of my favorite encouragements throughout all of the Bible…
The Apostle Paul is writing to a church that he dearly loves during a tumultuous time; a time where his friends and fellow followers of The Way are being challenged in their faith and in their lives. The churrch in Philippi is having to confront the difficulties of this world – you know ‘em - finances, relationships, work, priorities, health, what to believe, and more.
Instead of focusing on all of the negativity surrounding the early church, Paul admonishes his friends to change their perspectives. Instead of focusing on the crapy things this side of heaven, people are encouraged to re-align their thinking and place a focal emphasis on the good in things.
What about the church today?
What about you? Which perspective do you come at things from?
Don’t get me wrong…I’m not suggesting that we all throw reality to the wind and live in a fanciful world of irrational thoughts and unrealistic expectations. On the contrary. What I am suggesting is that we begin to shift our way of thinking about the things of this life and seek the positive in each position.
Are you working through financial strain? Consider the fact that what you “don’t have” is likely greater than what most of the rest of world has. Make sense? Okay…let me elaborate. What I’m getting at is that we, in western civilization, have freedom, access to food, clean water, quality education and are able to seek out most anything that we want in life, in relationships, in finances and more. Yet what we often focus on is not what we have; instead, we look at what others have and with envy, we focus on the subsequent negatives of what we feel entitled to or wish we had. Considering most of the rest of the world experiences absolute poverty each and every day, it leads me to believe that what most of what we don’t have is more than they’ll ever have. We ought to consider how blessed we are to have the things that we have and should consider ways in which we can share what we have with others.
What about church? Do you ever find yourself sitting in church frustrated that the “music” isn’t traditional enough or contemporary enough or fast enough or slow enough or…or…or…? And let’s not forget the pastor. If he/she would only preach more old school, you know…good ‘ol fashioned Bible teaching and not all of the fluff and stuff, church would be much better. What’s worse is when people who come to church and sit in my seat. Rude!
What would church look like if we sought the good in it; that it is the Bride of Christ, not a building and that the church service IS NOT ABOUT YOU! What? Don’t be silly! If church isn’t about me, my spiritual growth and “getting fed”, than what’s it all about?
Considering Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8, I would suggest to you that we recognize that we are free to worship God without fear of arrest or persecution in a free country. I would love for people to see that beauty in the tapestry of each person in the church, created in the image of God, and the fact that God loves each one just as we are but isn’t willing to leave us that way. Praise God for the opportunity and ability to use music as an expression of worship. Praise God for the gift of preaching used to instruct, correct and encourage. Praise God for that person sitting in your seat. Praise God church isn’t about you or me, but that it’s about the body of Christ coming together to love God, love people and light the world.
These thoughts really aren’t about your finances or your perspective of your church. I simply apply them as a means to help understand the shift in thinking that we’re called to. It applies at your place of employment, in your marriage, with your kiddos, during yard work, serving your neighbor and in everything that you do and experience.
Paul gives the church a lot to think about and brings it full circle by encouraging his disciples to consider how they are internally processing their circumstances and situations.
I wonder how much different our world’s would be if we changed our way of looking at things, took God’s Word litteraly and found the good in the things that we face each day?
A gentle rant from a humbled disciple